Quebec roads crumbling?

October 2nd, 2006
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Now there’s a headline nobody expected. Kind of like “Dog bites man”. So in the province famous for potholes large enough to swallow the Titanic, yawning maws creating a virtual blacktop Bermuda Triangle, we should be surprised that structures collapse, killing unsuspecting motorists?

No need to set up a provincial commission to find the cause, you might as well investigate why Quebeckers eat Mae West sugar cakes (because they’re soooooo good!). No. The reason is well known.

It’s corruption.

Remember, this highway was built in 1970, only six years before the $2 billion Montreal Olympics fiasco. Yes the one with the dump trucks moving gravel back and forth, all on the taxpayer’s nickel. Having spent all but the last year of the 70′s in Montreal, in my opinion, Saturday’s tragedy is no surprise at all.

When I was there, highways like the Metropolitan Expressway and routes on the south shore – not 20 years old – were already shedding concrete like so much grey dandruff. Some of this was certainly due to corrosion from road salt. Stop-gap measures like adding steel skirting bolted onto the overpasses were tried then, but I’m not sure how successful they were.

It was common knowledge that the Quebec construction and concrete products industry had, as we would euphemistically say today, “issues”. An Ontario acquaintance of ours worked in construction and routinely purchased culverts from Quebec and employed contractors from there. The price was right but the work often wasn’t. Connoisseurs will know that concrete has a typical cement to sand/gravel ratio of three to one; apparently, the product this fellow bought across the border was initially good, but then routinely dropped to concrete made at five to one or worse. It doesn’t take much imagination to predict what this will do to the structural integrity.

Added to this is the abundant anecdotal evidence of generally dodgy professional standards in the Quebec construction industry – particularly when government contracts were involved. This first hand experience will for most Quebeckers I think, make the results of Pierre Marc Johnson’s investigation moot. The builder(s) will be long since dead or retired to swank homes in Ft. Lauderdale. My fearless prediction is that a few hapless road inspectors will be pinned with it. Not much comfort for the grieving families.

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